x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Doherty chosen to exploit Pietersen's soft spot to spin

The left-arm bowler has played in only two one-day internationals, but the Australians will be hoping to exploit the England batsman's weakness against that time of bowling.

Xavier Doherty, right, receives some instruction from the Australia captain Ricky Ponting at Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence on November 22, 2010 in Brisbane.
Xavier Doherty, right, receives some instruction from the Australia captain Ricky Ponting at Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence on November 22, 2010 in Brisbane.

BRISBANE // Xavier Doherty will take to The Gabba field tomorrow with the shadow of Shane Warne continuing to hang over Australian cricket.

Not since Warne's final Test delivery against England in Sydney nearly four years ago have Australia been able to boast the best spin bowler in cricket.

That England should arrive here with Graeme Swann as the world's leading slow bowler shows just how far the pendulum has swung in favour of the tourists.

The farcical nature of Australia's 17-man squad announcement did little to curb the tide of criticism which has hit Ricky Ponting's side following their recent run of form.

So the decision to include the virtual unknown Doherty will not come as a surprise to those who follow the soap opera currently known as Australian cricket.

Doherty's selection, a risky one given he has experienced just two one-day internationals (ODIs) against Sri Lanka, appears to be for one reason and one reason only - to expose Kevin Pietersen.

During his international career, Pietersen has fallen 38 times to left-arm spin, a statistic which continues to infuriate the flamboyant batsman.

His vulnerability was again highlighted during the game against Australia A in Hobart where he was bowled by an innocuous looking delivery by Steven O'Keefe.

Perhaps that dismissal gave the Australian selectors the final nudge they needed to part company with Nathan Hauritz and instead give the Tasmanian his opportunity to shine on the biggest stage at all.

Certainly Doherty's figures would not suggest he is ready for such a role. He has a modest average of 48 and has taken just two wickets at a cost of 88 during his appearances at The Gabba.

Perhaps the selection of Doherty smacks of opportunism, or perhaps the more cynical would say desperation, yet the 28-year-old is determined to make the most of his time in the limelight.

That Pietersen is his chief target only adds to the intrigue for a man who up to a few months ago would have considered an armchair view the closest he would get to the action.

"I'm really looking forward to facing Kevin and all the England batsmen," Doherty said. "His record suggests that there might be a bit of a weakness there and I'll look at some footage this week.

"There's no doubt that he's aware of it and it's all everyone has been talking about so I'm sure he's aware of it and it will be difficult for him to get away from that contest."

Doherty believes that the fact he is an unknown quantity could benefit the Australians.

"I think there's definitely an advantage for me in that nobody knows what I can do," he said.

"I haven't dealt with the English before but they haven't seen me so it probably works both ways there.

"I think the excitement and confidence which I can bring into the game will definitely be in my favour.

"There are going to be some nerves and excitement there and I probably won't be able to help being up for it. Everyone strives to be on the big stage and be the one who can turn the game and I'm no different."

Doherty is the ninth spinner to have been used by Australia since the retirement of Warne following the 5-0 thrashing of England in January 2007, and he is desperate to avoid comparisons with his legendary compatriot.

"The guys who have come in after Warney have come in and made an impact so it's unfair to suggest they've failed," he said.

"If you compare everyone to Warney then you're always going to come up short and I'm no different.

"I don't aim to take all the wickets and be the next Shane Warne but the ball is in my court now and it's up to me to grab it and run with it."